New Lasers Add to Classes, Popular Science Day Event

Randolph one of just 22 schools to earn grant from American Physical Society

Laser at Randolph College Physics Department

Randolph College’s annual Science Day and Science Festival are known for their big shows and science tricks. This year, the events were even bigger, thanks to a grant from the American Physical Society. (APS) The College was one of just 22 organizations in the nation selected to receive funding as part of a worldwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the laser.

The $6,200 grant was used to purchase lasers and related equipment for use in physics classes and during outreach programs. Science Day and the annual Science Festival, held in March, are two of the biggest programs offered by the College and its Society of Physics Students.

“Lasers are amazing and indispensible in research,” said Peter Sheldon, a Randolph physics professor. “Adding a laser activity to Science Day enabled us to share the wonders of this technology with children who may never have had the chance to see the laser close up.”

Physics students prepare the laser for testing.The APS grant paid for five helium-neon modulated lasers, five kits for doing experiments with fiber optics voice and video transmission, and a high-speed oscilloscope. The equipment allows students to see and test lasers in a variety of ways.

Science Day is a popular event offered to area third- through sixth-graders. It attracts about 300 students annually and is designed to create excitement about science by allowing local children to experience fun, science-related, hands-on activities.

Last year, Science Day was included in a weekend of science-related events, demonstrations, presentations, and activities that were part of the first Science Festival.

“Science Day is important because it gives kids in the Lynchburg area a chance to do some really cool things with science that they might not get a chance to do at school or home,” said Courtney Collier ’12.

Randolph College students are benefiting from the laser grant as well. The additional equipment has added more depth to the experiments they can do in science classes.

“Lasers are so ubiquitous in any scientific research and in so many technologies that any student studying a science should experience research with lasers,” Sheldon said. “This grant is allowing us to enhance the opportunities we already offer our students in the lab.”